Benefits and risks of Inhaled Corticosteroids

Steroids are hormones that your body makes and uses every day. Steroids used to treat asthma are called corticosteroids. These steroids are not the same as those banned for athletes.

Benefits and risks of Inhaled Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids can be pills, syrups, creams, or can be given by needle. Often they are inhaled into the lungs. Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) are used for asthma and allergic rhinitis*. Corticosteroid creams are used to treat eczema**.

Corticosteroids taken by mouth may be needed to treat severe asthma attacks. When needed they should only be used for up to one week. Examples of corticosterioids taken by mouth are: Pediapred®, prednisone, methylprednisolone, dexamethasone.

* Rhinitis is inflammation in the nose.

** Eczema is an inflammation on the skin.

Benefits of Inhaled Corticosteroids (ICS)

  • Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) used to treat asthma are called Controller medicine.
  • For asthma, ICS work on the inside of the airways to decrease swelling and mucous.
  • ICS are usually the best medicine to control asthma long term.
  • ICS go directly to the lungs, so only small doses of steroids are needed.
  • ICS take a few days to start working. It may take a few weeks before the airway swelling is decreased.
  • If needed, ICS can be used safely for years.

Risks of Inhaled Corticosteroids

  • At low doses, side effects are rare.
  • In a few children, ICS may cause a hoarse voice or yeast infection in the mouth or throat called “thrush”.
  • In some children, there may be a small effect on growth (less than 1cm) in the first few months of use.
  • Normal doses of inhaled steroids rarely affect children’s height.
  • Poor asthma control will also affect growth.


Common Inhaled Corticosteroids:






(contains budesonide and formoterol)




FloVent ®


(contains fluticasone and salmeterol)




(contains mometazone and formoterol)

Instruction for Use of Inhaled Steroids for Asthma

  • It is important to know how to use your inhaler properly. Review how to use it with your doctor, asthma educator or pharmacist.
  • There are different types of inhalers. It is important to use a spacer device with a metered dose inhaler (MDI). The spacer helps to prevent thrush and allows more medicine to reach the airways in the lungs.
  • Rinse, gargle with water and spit, or take a drink after using the ICS to prevent thrush.
  • Do not stop inhaled ICS without your doctor’s advice.
  • Follow your Asthma Action Plan. Review your plan with your doctor at least twice a year.
  • Talk to your doctor about any concerns or side effects.

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